The Weekend Wanderer: 12 February 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles


Want less - Brooks“How to Want Less: The secret to satisfaction has nothing to do with achievement, money, or stuff” – Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic: “I glanced into my teenage daughter’s bedroom one spring afternoon last year, expecting to find her staring absentmindedly at the Zoom screen that passed for high school during the pandemic. Instead, she was laughing uproariously at a video she had found. I asked her what she was looking at. ‘It’s an old man dancing like a chicken and singing,’ she told me. I came over to her laptop, not being above watching someone making an idiot of himself for 15 seconds of social-media fame. What I found instead was the septuagenarian rock star Mick Jagger, in a fairly recent concert, croaking out the Rolling Stones’ megahit ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’—a song that debuted on the charts when I was a year old—for probably the millionth time. An audience of tens of thousands of what looked to be mostly Baby Boomers and Gen Xers sang along rapturously. ‘Is this serious?’ she asked. ‘Do people your age actually like this?’ I took umbrage, but had to admit it was a legitimate question. ‘Kind of,’ I answered. It wasn’t just the music, or even the performance, I assured her. To my mind, the longevity of that particular song—No. 2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s original list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’—has a lot to do with a deep truth it speaks. As we wind our way through life, I explained, satisfaction—the joy from fulfillment of our wishes or expectations—is evanescent. No matter what we achieve, see, acquire, or do, it seems to slip from our grasp.”


Abraham and Isaac“An Unlikely Meditation on Modern Happiness: Rereading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling – Ryan Kemp in The Hedgehog Review: “On the one hand, Fear and Trembling is a literary masterpiece. It showcases Kierkegaard at the height of his rhetorical powers. He paints Abraham’s trial in such vivid color that the reader feels anew the real tragedy of his ordeal. In addition to the poetic force of his writing, Kierkegaard is a subtle philosopher, a supreme ironist, evident in the way he deftly teases out the implications of Abraham’s status as the ‘father of faith.’ He argues that if Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac is truly praiseworthy—as each of the great Abrahamic religions assumes—then faith involves a ‘teleological suspension of the ethical.’ The person of faith must be prepared to put the commands of God above the demands of ethics. This last point is what makes contemporary interest in Fear and Trembling so surprising. It’s not just that Kierkegaard paints a stark picture of what Christian faith demands; it’s the fact that he cares to discuss the topic at all. One can scarcely imagine a subject less interesting to the contemporary reader (at least the sort who would think to pick up a work of nineteenth-century Danish philosophy) than a serious, often abstruse, discussion of the meaning of faith. So why do modern readers keep returning to this bizarre little book?


Non-reactive-Leadership-980x551“Non-reactive Leadership: Lessons from René Girard and St. Ignatius of Loyola” – Dave Hillis in Comment: “There is a line in the film Gladiator that has come to inspire my days. It’s spoken early in the picture, soon after the victory of Maximus Decimus Meridius in Germania and shortly before the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Aware of his son’s incapacity to succeed him as leader, the emperor asks Maximus to take his place as lord protector of Rome. Maximus balks at the request, wherein the two begin a discussion of the city itself: what it was, what it had become, and what it could be. Marcus Aurelius, aware that without some decisive action Rome will not make it through the winter, expresses his thoughts to Maximus: ‘There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish; it was so fragile.’ The choice of leadership—how each one of us leads and who we gravitate toward to lead us—is of subtle but critical importance. Will we choose leadership that is muscular and gratuitous? Or will we choose leadership that is deeply centred and divinely choreographed? Non-reactive leadership is a paradigm that helps answer this question. In the words of Robert Terry, non-reactive leadership ‘is the courage to call forth authentic action in the commons.’ What follows is a portrait of its cast.”


Priest with old Bible on black background, closeup

“Pastors serve as primary source of mental health care for Black, Latino congregants” – Amy McCaig in Rice News: “A new study of Black and Latino Christians found they often turn to their pastors for mental health care or information on mental health resources, even when those clergy feel ill-equipped to offer help or advice. ‘Where Would You Go? Race, Religion, and the Limits of Pastor Mental Health Care in Black and Latino Congregations’ includes information from focus groups with 14 pastors and interviews with 20 congregants from Black and Latino churches in Houston. The interviews explored how church members make decisions about where to seek mental health care or direct others for help. Dan Bolger from Rice University and Pamela Prickett from the University of Amsterdam authored the study, which appeared in a recent edition of the journal Religions. Bolger said that while Black and Latino church members both sought mental health care from pastors, the motivation for seeking pastoral counsel varied between the two ethnic groups. Black congregants sought pastors over medical professionals because of stigma surrounding mental health issues in the broader community. Latinos, on the other hand, sought counseling from their pastors primarily due to stigma within their church.”


alan jacobs“The Year of Repair” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “One year and one day ago, I wrote: “I declare 2021 The Year of Hypomone.” As you’ll see if you read that post, hypomone is a New Testament word meaning “patient endurance,” and I hope we have all learned a few things about endurance in the past … well, two years. But endurance is not enough. Today I say: I declare 2022 The Year of Repair.  This is the year when we must turn our attention not to innovation or disruption or any of the other cool buzzwords, but to fixing the shit that needs fixing. As Steven J. Jackson has shown in an absolutely seminal essay, our situation requires ‘broken world thinking,’ and broken world thinking leads to an imperative of repair. We will look unflinchingly at what is broken. We will repent of and ask forgiveness for our role in the breaking. We will scout the landscape for the tools of repair, and be especially attentive to what we have discarded, what we have labeled as refuse. We will therefore practice ‘filth therapy.’


primopiano_14126“ASIA/PAKISTAN – Christians united in prayer: guaranteeing the protection of religious minorities” – Agenzia Fides: “‘The brutal attack on Anglican pastors, which took place in Peshawar on January 30, shook the entire Christian community in Pakistan. We strongly condemn the brutal murder of Reverend William Siraj. All of us Christians in Pakistan are united with the Anglican Church of Pakistan and with the families of the late Pastor William Siraj, and Pastor Patrick Naeem, wounded in this attack’, is what Msgr. Benny Mario Travas, Archbishop of Karachi told Fides. Two unidentified men on a motorbike opened fire on Anglican Pastors at the All Saints Church in Peshawar as they were leaving the church after Sunday liturgy. Pastor William Siraj, assistant pastor, was killed instantly and Pastor Patrick Naeem was wounded by a bullet, he is now out of danger Calling on the entire Christian community in Pakistan to unite in prayer for the deceased and wounded priests, Archbishop Travas said: ‘I appeal to the government of Pakistan to take immediate and serious action against this incident, arresting the aggressors and working for the peace and security of all religious minorities living in Pakistan.'”


Music: All Sons & Daughters, “Rest in You,” from Poets & Saints

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 February 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles


Mission Nexus - Black Missionary Heroes“Black History Month Devotional Series: Black Missionary Heroes – Past and Present – Missio Nexus: “In celebration of Black History Month this devotional plan gives insight into the contributions made by African Americans Missionaries throughout history leading to present day. These unsung heroes of faith have discipled nations, planted churches, and preached the gospel under the most adverse conditions. Read their stories and the passages of scripture that highlight their faith and commitment in creating gospel movements within neighborhoods and nations. These profiles and devotionals are provided by Ambassadors Fellowship Inc. and the National African American Missions Council.”


00Syria-Christians-02-superJumbo“‘Now There Is No One’: The Lament of One of the Last Christians in a Syrian City” – Hwaida Saad, Asmaa al-Omar and Ben Hubbard in The New York Times: “On Christmas Day, Michel Butros al-Jisri, one of the last Christians in the Syrian city of Idlib, didn’t attend services, because the Islamist rebels who control the area had long since locked up the church. Nor did he gather with friends and relatives to celebrate around a tree because nearly all of his fellow Christians have either died or fled during Syria’s 10-year civil war. Instead, Mr. al-Jisri said, he went to the city’s Christian cemetery, which no one uses anymore, to sit among the graves of his forebears and mark the day quietly, by himself. ‘Who am I going to celebrate the holiday with? The walls?’ he asked. ‘I don’t want to celebrate if I am alone.’ Mr. al-Jisri, who is 90, stooped and almost deaf but still fairly robust, is a living relic of one of the many formerly vibrant Christian communities in the Middle East that appear headed for extinction. Communities across the Middle East and North Africa — some of which trace their roots to Christianity’s early days — have been struggling for decades with wars, poverty and persecution. A British government report in 2019 found that Christians in the Middle East and North Africa had fallen to less than 4 percent of the population from more than 20 percent a century ago.”


henry-nouwen“Attentiveness, Prayer, and Solitude in Community: What are the spiritual practices that keep a community and its members alive?” – Henri J. M. Nouwen in Plough: “How do we put into place the disciplines that are required to turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, whether for individuals or communities? The core word is attentiveness. Be attentive, be alert, be awake. Be ready. Listen. The discipline is to be attentive to where conversion is needed. It’s not just an outer call; it comes from within. How can we stay in touch with the longing, with the desire for conversion? A lot of people I know have no desire to be converted whatsoever. The fact that you want to be converted is in itself a sign that there is something you long for that you know you are missing. And if you really do live the tension, you are living in a state of longing. If you don’t have any tension, if you don’t have any longing, you become like many people who finally end up flat and bored. Routine is all there is. Nothing excites me. Nothing really gives me life. And a lot of people live like that. So be attentive. Attentiveness is the inner goal of conversion. It has to do with attentiveness to the voice of God in your life of prayer.”


Van Gogh - The Sower“Van Gogh’s God” – Peter J. Leithart in First Things: “As I wound my way through the immersive Beyond Van Gogh exhibit at the Birmingham Jefferson County Civic Center a few days after Christmas, a question kept nagging. What did Vincent see when he gazed at the world? What experiences or ideas lurk behind his swirling skies, his screaming colors, his darkly outlined but often featureless human figures? At times, I thought I caught hints of terror in the desperation of his empty Night Café (1888) and the nightmarish flickering of trees. Vincent was institutionalized more than once. Are his paintings projections of inner turbulence?  Not according to the painter. In letters, Van Gogh claimed he tried to capture the incandescent beauty of nature, radiant with a glory beyond nature. But even a modestly theological description of Van Gogh’s work will provoke protests. After theological training and a stint ministering among the poor, Vincent turned from the Dutch Calvinism of his parents. He abandoned the church after his pastoral call wasn’t renewed, scorned the religious art of his contemporaries, and almost never painted biblical scenes.”


127563“Miracles Don’t Violate the Laws of Nature” – Craig Keener in Christianity Today: “Why do many people embrace a worldview that won’t even consider evidence for miracles? Sometimes they assume that science opposes miracles, but that assumption goes back not to scientific inquiry itself but to an 18th-century philosopher. Knowingly or unknowingly, many people have followed the thesis of Scottish skeptic David Hume (1711–1776). Hume was probably the most prominent philosopher of his generation, and surely the most influential from his time on subsequent generations. He wrote on a wide variety of topics, sometimes very insightfully but sometimes (as with his ethnocentric approach to history) in ways that would not be accepted today. Hume’s intellectual stature, earned from other works, eventually lent credibility to his 1748 essay on miracles. In this essay, Hume dismisses the credibility of miracle claims, appealing to ‘natural law’ and uniform human experience. Although an appeal to natural law might sound scientific, Hume was not a scientist; in fact, some of his views on causation would make scientific inquiry impossible. Hume’s essay on miracles also contradicts his own approach to discovering knowledge. Moreover, Hume’s essay has generated serious intellectual counterarguments since the time it was first published. One of these counterarguments was history’s first public use of Bayes’ theorem, today an essential staple in statistics.”


chamber-church-by-buro-ziyu-zhuang-qingdao_dezeen_2364_col_19-852x1278“White-metal fins form abstract exterior of Büro Ziyu Zhuang’s Chamber Church” – Alyn Griffiths in de zeen: “German-Chinese architecture practice Büro Ziyu Zhuang has completed a church in Qingdao, China, featuring walls and a tower made from dozens of spaced-out aluminium ribs. Büro Ziyu Zhuang designed the Chamber Church as part of Chinese property developer Sunac’s Aduo Town project in the Qingdao Zangma Mountain Tourism Resort. The church is positioned at the edge of a public plaza connecting it with other nearby amenities. When viewed from the plaza, the forested mountains form a dramatic natural backdrop. The architects claimed that the building combines a religious experience with secular attitude, explaining that the church ‘aims to create a spatial container that both respects the past and looks towards the future.'”


Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Molly Parden], “Psalm 126,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 January 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles


173811“Mosaic made by freed slave to thank God found in Turkey’s Hatay” – Anadolu Agency in Daily Sabah: “A mosaic made by a freed slave to thank God for his emancipation was unearthed during the excavation at the 6th-century Church of the Holy Apostles in southern Hatay province. The Church of the Holy Apostles was found in an orange grove in the Arpaçiftlik neighborhood by Mehmet Keleş in 2007. After Keleş recognized historical artifacts while planting orange saplings in the grove, archaeological digs were launched in the area. With the disclosure of mosaics, animal figures, stone graves and bone remains, expert teams determined that the area was a church and its name was the Church of the Holy Apostles. While digs continue in the historical church, archaeologists have recently found an area with a mosaic. The mosaic with a peacock figure also features an inscription in which a slave thanked God after being freed.”


joy-ike-007-980x551“Grow Deep, Not Wide: The art of nurturing the life that really is life.” – Joy Ike in Comment: “This summer, while on my porch, I experienced a drive-by shooting for the first time. Germantown, my beloved neighbourhood here in Philadelphia, has probably been like most inner-city neighbourhoods this past year: destitute, depressed, run down, pressure-cooked. I live on a high-traffic street and a block or two from the dividing line of what would be considered ‘safe Germantown’ and ‘unsafe Germantown.’ On one side of my house is my neighbour, who has become a dear friend and a teammate of sorts: we hope together. On the other side is an abandoned house by the corner, and beside that, a street that has become known as the local epicentre of crime and drug dealing. We’ll call it ‘T Street.’ As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world, I’ve watched as the drug culture has slowly turned the bend and crept around my street corner, like a shadow trying to cover more territory. And this is where my pandemic story begins.”


127321“Christians Are Going Back to Church—But Maybe Not the Same One” – Melissa Morgan Kelley in Christianity Today: “Houston Northwest Church suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. By the time its flooded facilities were finally rebuilt a couple years ago, the congregation was only back at full capacity for six weeks before services were shut down by the pandemic. As the church endured one setback after another, senior pastor Steve Bezner has seen the flock ebb and flow. ‘About a third of our congregation worshiping in person are new faces,’ he said. His church currently draws 1,600 attendees each week, including several hundred viewing online—not far from its pre-pandemic weekly average of 1,700. Bezner marvels at the number of members who left during the pandemic and the number of new people who have showed up to take their place. ‘It will make you believe in the preservation of the Holy Spirit,’ the Houston pastor said. Member turnover is as common to the life cycle of a church as baptisms, weddings, and funerals. But the pandemic has accelerated people’s comings and goings and has required new strategies to welcome and assimilate new members into the church community.”


CB019074“The Gift of Being Yourself” – David G. Benner in Conversatio: “We all live life searching for that one possible way of being that carries with it the gift of authenticity. We are often most conscious of this search for identity during adolescence, when it takes front stage for most people. At this stage of life, we try on identities like clothing, looking for a style of being that fits with how we want to be seen. But long after adolescence has passed, most adults know the occasional feeling of being a fraud—a sense of not being what they pretend to be, but rather being precisely what they pretend not to be. With a little reflection, most of us can become aware of masks that we first adopted as strategies to avoid feelings of vulnerability, but which have become parts of our social self. Tragically, we settle so easily for pretense and a truly authentic self often seems elusive. There is, however, a way of being for each of us that is as natural and deeply congruent as the life of the tulip. Beneath the roles and masks lies a possibility of a self that is as distinctive as a snowflake. It is an originality that has existed since God first loved us into existence. Our true self-in-Christ is the only self that will support authenticity. It and it alone provides an identity that is eternal.”


sound of metal“Picturing Silence: Stillness in Sound of Metal” – James K. A. Smith in Image: “For me, one of the gifts of contemporary art is precisely its difficulty. A subtle blessing of such art—whether painting or poetry—is that it demands something of me, and above all it demands that I make myself available for contemplation. This is because such art does not yield easily accessible nuggets of sentiment or pleasure. But its difficulty harbors an invitation. In its refusal to be immediately available to surface attention, it suggests that I might attend to my world differently. Rather than just offering emotion or decoration or a ‘statement,’ the best contemporary art asks me to slow the frenetic pace of incessant distraction to pause and dwell. It requires a stillness that already verges on the spiritual. One of the most convicting pictures I’ve seen of such spiritual stillness was Darius Marder’s recent film, Sound of Metal. The film follows the harrowing journey of Ruben, a heavy-metal drummer who experiences catastrophic hearing loss as a young man. What is unique about the movie is its sonic environment, the way the soundtrack invites us in and out of Ruben’s own point of—not view, but hearing. The opening scene is an overwhelming, alienating wall of sound. Four minutes in, you’ll be wondering if you can stay much longer. Then, in scenes from the next morning, the world’s quiet pleasures are a chorus: the crisp, gentle tinkling of cutlery; the drip of a coffee maker; rustling sheets upon waking and the gentle intimacy of a kiss.”


smarphone dump“The people deciding to ditch their smartphones” – Suzanne Bearne at the BBC: “In a world where many of us are glued to our smartphones, Dulcie Cowling is something of an anomaly – she has ditched hers. The 36-year-old decided at the end of last year that getting rid of her handset would improve her mental health. So, over Christmas she told her family and friends that she was switching to an old Nokia phone that could only make and receive calls and text messages. She recalls that one of the pivotal moments that led to her decision was a day at the park with her two boys, aged six and three: “I was on my mobile at a playground with the kids and I looked up and every single parent – there was up to 20 – were looking at their phones, just scrolling away,” she says. “I thought ‘when did this happen?’. Everyone is missing out on real life. I don’t think you get to your death bed and think you should have spent more time on Twitter, or reading articles online.” Ms Cowling, who is a creative director at London-based advertising agency Hell Yeah!, adds that the idea to abandon her smartphone had built up during the Covid lockdowns.”


Music: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, “The Road,” The Road Original Film Score

Metaphors for Ministry: Hitting ‘The Road’ with Cormac McCarthy

An article I wrote during the past year was published this week at Preaching Today. It draws from one of my favorite novels of all time, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. If you know McCarthy’s writing, you may know it is very rough around the edges. While The Road is also rough around the edges there is also a tenderness and grace sprinkled amidst the troubles. Because of this, it has been such a balm for my soul in these past few years. I wrote about that, and here is the first section of “Metaphors for Ministry: Hitting The Road with Cormac McCarthy” (you can read the rest here).

When a friend felt forced to resign from his church, he and I met up to talk, pray, shoulder burdens together, and cry out to God. I arrived a little early, so before I met him for brunch, I did what I always do when I have extra time. I stopped at a used bookstore. In the dollar discards was a dog-eared and stained mass paperback copy of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Road. I picked it up with a few other treasures and headed to the restaurant where we were meeting. We talked about deep pain and fiery hope, works of love and moments of failure. Our conversation roamed the whole range of pastoring within the local church.

After our time of conversation and prayer, as we headed to our cars, I knew it would be a long time until I would see him. I gave him a hug and then handed him the roughed up copy of The Road. I hoped, somehow, this worn out copy of the book might breathe life into his worn out life and broken down ministry.

My friend isn’t the only casualty of ministry in these divided and confusing days. Many pastors I have met are struggling with what it means to be a pastor now, wondering where we should turn for guidance in these times. Scripture and the great pastoral tradition provide the best and first resources, but in times when ministry is unclear, we need other voices to help us gain perspective and see rich metaphors for ministry.

While I am wary of misusing a literary work, I cannot think of any novel more appropriate as a parable for pastors in this present moment than The Road.[1]Against the background of an ashen, decayed world, burned out by an unnamed disaster, a father and son (referred to only as “the man” and “the boy”) walk a road littered with danger and goodness toward a hoped-for, yet unclear, destination.

As pastors today, our situation is similar. Everything we understood as normal is a faint memory in this post-pandemic secular age. Still, we are on a journey through dangerous lands, holding onto hope and goodness amid the perils we face. The Road offers us metaphors for ministry as we seek to shepherd our people with love even in desperate times.

Cormac McCarthy may seem like a strange author to turn to in such times. His spare yet powerful writing is often dark and grotesque. Still, McCarthy’s novels are haunted by some divine presence, even if his views are far from orthodox Christianity. In an interview McCarthy once said, “I don’t think you have to have a clear idea of who or what God is in order to pray.”[2] Throughout The Road, the father invokes God, sometimes in angst and other times in hope. This tension with the divine offers fertile ground for exploring echoes of pastoral work in the novel.

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 November 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


facing disagreement“Helping Believers Navigate the Difference Divide” – Todd Fisher at Churches for the Sake of Others blog: “On election night 2016 my family and I were living in London. When we heard the results the next day, I’m embarrassed to say I felt thankful to not be in the U.S. My response was less from a political opinion and more from a sense that contentious times were ahead. I thought we’d be at a safe distance from such divisions. When our time in England came to an earlier-than-expected conclusion in the summer of 2017, I knew we were headed back to a divided homeland. Of course, little did I know just how divided things would become. Like many, I’ve found myself at a loss in recent years. We are not just fractured as a nation, not merely divided in local churches, we are experiencing strife like never before in families, homes and the most intimate of relationships. And this was before March of 2020. The pandemic and ensuing unrest of the last 19 months has served to accentuate, highlight, make clearer the differences between us. So what to do? How can we as believers navigate the divide of difference? How do we embody a different way and work towards reconciliation? How to lead when the ‘two or more gathered’ seem increasingly far apart? Ultimately, how do we engage the person in front of us in the manner of our Jesus?”


Brest Bible Exposition“A Belarussian Bible exhibition in troubled times” – Johannes Reimer in Evangelical Focus – Europe: “Very few cities of Europe are so connected to the Bible translation as this is the case with Brest, a Belarusian city at the border to Poland. Brest is 1,000 years old and has been under different European rulers throughout her history. In Reformation times the city was ruled by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Mikolai Radzivill the Black (1515-1565), who became Reformed and ordered the second ever Protestant translation of the Bible into a European language – Polish. The Brest Bible was published in 1563 and became a foundation for several Bible translations in different Eastern European languages. Among others, the translation into modern Belarusian by the Baptist pastor and social reformer Lukash Dziekuc-Malei (1888-1955). Dziekuc-Malei lived and worked in Brest prior to World War II. The National Library of Belarus together with the regional Gorki Library in Brest organized a symposium in 2021 honoring his extraordinary contribution to the Bible translation into the modern Belarusian language and published the procedures of the conference.”


church loneliness“The Riddle of Church Loneliness” – Susan Mettes in Christianity Today: “I can’t remember at what point I realized that I would probably go two years without a hug. Nobody knew how much worse the pandemic would get, but I knew I would be stuck in place for the duration. My friends felt a world away. Phone calls with my family had become strained. I couldn’t tell how they were really doing or articulate how I was handling the stress. (Not all that well: I had stopped showering altogether, and I was watching the Lord of the Rings movies repeatedly.) I believe winter was approaching when the realization about huglessness hit me. Holidays loomed in the near future, and I wondered if I could deal with a Thanksgiving by myself, with horse meat instead of turkey. I was in Central Asia. It was 2004, in the thick of the bird flu pandemic. That period, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, was one of my deepest experiences of loneliness. I was in a community where only one person I knew spoke English well. I could talk on a pay phone with people in the United States—through a very bad connection where I could always hear a third person breathing on the line—once every two weeks. I got sick a lot. I didn’t bathe much since the Turkish bathhouse was open to women just one day a week, during a time when I was scheduled to teach. People I didn’t know would come to my house to ask me to help them cheat on their English tests. I started talking to myself.”


dostoyevskyembed“Dostoyevsky Stricken: A God-possessed man reacts to suffering” – This several-decades-old article from Malcolm Muggeridge is found at Plough: “Like so many of my generation, I first read Dostoyevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment, when I was very young. I read it like a thriller, with mounting excitement. Later, when I came to read Dostoyevsky’s other works, especially his great masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, I realized that he was not just a writer with a superlative gift for storytelling, but that he had a special insight into what life is about, into man’s relationship with his Creator, making him a prophetic voice looking into and illumining the future. I came to see that the essential theme of all his writing is good and evil, the two points round which the drama of our mortal existence is enacted.”


Barna Pastors Poll 2021“38% of U.S. Pastors Have Thought About Quitting Full-Time Ministry in the Past Year” – From a recent study by the Barna Group: “Recent data collected from Barna’s pastor poll indicate that U.S. pastors are currently in crisis and at risk of burnout. Notably, in 2021 alone, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of pastors who are thinking about quitting ministry entirely. With pastors’ well-being on the line, and many on the brink of burnout, 38 percent indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This percentage is up 9 full points (from 29%) since Barna asked church leaders this same question at the beginning of 2021. A deeper analysis of these data show that some groups are faring worse than others. One of the more alarming findings is that 46 percent of pastors under the age of 45 say they are considering quitting full-time ministry, compared to 34 percent of pastors 45 and older. Keeping the right younger leaders encouraged and in their ministry roles will be crucial to the next decade of congregational vitality in the U.S.”


library“Intermission: From The Library” – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule: “If you are anything like me, you can sense on the breeze that things are accelerating out there. ‘Events, my dear boy, events’, as the last old-school British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, once put it, are moving in such a way as to force many hands. I’ve been saying for a year or two now that we are living in apocalyptic times, and I mean that literally. The Greek word Apokalypsis means unveiling – or, of course, revelation. In Apocalyptic times, things are revealed which were previously hidden. The world is shown to be a different shape to the one you thought you were living in. This is rarely comfortable. If you pay attention, it may change your life. We each have to decide what to do with what is revealed to us.”


Music: Shawn E. Okpebholo, Two Black Churches – “Movement 1: Ballad of Birmingham,” Performed by Will Liverman (baritone) and Paul Sanchez (piano).